News Watch 104 (January/February 2005) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 104


Supreme court agrees to hear government’s Monju appeal

First fuel loading at Higashidori-1

All six units at Fukushima I stopped

Procedures for reactor shut down during terrorist and armed attacks compiled

Stop Press: Hamaoka-5


  Supreme court agrees to hear government’s Monju appealOn December 2 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal filed by the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) regarding the Monju case. The appeal relates to the Nagoya High Court ruling that the approval to build the reactor was invalid (see article re court cases in this edition of NIT). Proceedings will commence on March 17. Monju is a Fast Breeder Prototype Reactor (FBR; 280 MW), built by the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. Trials have been on hold since the sodium leakage accident on 8 December 1995.

The Nagoya High Court’s ruling invalidated the government’s approval for construction of FBR, and METI, the defendant, filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. Almost two years have passed since METI file the appeal. This petition has now been recognized, but that doesn’t mean the defendant has won the case. After hearing the arguments, the Supreme Court will decide either (1) to reject the appeal, (2) to over-rule the High Court decision and make its own decision, or (3) to annul the High Court ruling and return the case to the High Court.

Looking at past cases where the Supreme Court has heard appeals, High Court rulings have often been reversed. Nonetheless, there have also been cases where High Court rulings were upheld. Since this is a very important lawsuit, it is natural that the appeal be heard. This fact alone doesn’t help us predict the outcome.

At the “Decommission Monju! National Gathering” held on December 4-5 in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture, Miwako Ogiso, the head of the Office for the Plaintiffs Group, stated that she believes the High Court ruling will surely be upheld, as it was in line with past Supreme Court precedents.

  First fuel loading at Higashidori-1On December 24 the first fuel loading began at Higashidori-1 (BWR, 1,100 MW), which is now being constructed by Tohoku Electric Power Co. in Higashidori Village, Aomori Prefecture. The loading operation took ten days. According to the schedule, it is expected to reach first criticality in January, begin power generation in March and start commercial operation in October this year.

In the past, power companies used to define the “commencement of trial operations” from the commencement of power generation, but Tohoku Electric announced that it would consider this stage to begin with the commencement of fuel loading.

  All six units at Fukushima I stoppedSince December 19 operations have been suspended at all six units of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima I plant (all BWR, total output 4,696 MW). Unit 1 has been down since 25 October 2002, due to the damage cover-up scandal exposed in August of that year. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency ordered a one year suspension, and since then the Fukushima Prefectural government has refused to give its consent to resume operations. In addition Unit 3 and Unit 5 have been undergoing periodic inspections, Unit 3 since August 2004, and Unit 5 since November 2004.

Units 2, 4 and 6 were stopped one after another when radioactive water leaks were found inside the feed-water heater rooms of Units 2 and 4 on December 8 and inside the reactor containment vessel of Unit 6 on December 17. Water leakage also found on December 15 in the reactor containment vessel of Unit 5, which is undergoing a periodic inspection.

  Procedures for reactor shut down during terrorist and armed attacks compiledOn December 3, a “Panel for Discussions on Nuclear Facility Protection Measures in Times of Emergency”, organized by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Cabinet Secretariat, delivered a report outlining their basic ideas on the matter.

The report proposes that when the country is threatened, for example by a terrorist attack, the government would assess the level of threat according to three categories: situations where an armed attack is predicted, situations where a military attack has occurred, and situations where an urgent response is required. In these circumstances an order would be given to nuclear power operators to shut down their reactors. When an unexpected situation arises, nuclear power operators may shut down their reactors at their own discretion, without waiting for the government’s order. Depending on the situation, shutdown could be done either as an ordinary shutdown, or as an emergency shutdown. In the case of a ‘situation where an urgent response is required’, it was decided that an emergency shutdown would be required.

When an alert is announced of a ‘situation where an armed attack is predicted’, nuclear power operators would immediately begin preparations for reactor shutdown, including securing alternative power. In other words, at any given time it must be possible to shutdown all reactors at the same time.

  Stop Press: Hamaoka-5The Hamaoka-5 reactor (Chubu Electric Power Company, BWR, 1,380 MW) commenced operations on 18 January 2005.


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